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4 teens rescued following human trafficking investigation in Edmonton

Click to play video: '4 teens rescued, 3 men charged after Alberta sex-trafficking investigation'
4 teens rescued, 3 men charged after Alberta sex-trafficking investigation
WATCH ABOVE: A shocking investigation has led to three men facing nearly 50 charges. This after four teens in Edmonton were rescued after being forced into sex work at a local hotel. Jasmine King reports – Nov 30, 2023

An investigation by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) Human Trafficking section has resulted in the rescue of four teens in Edmonton.

Two men along with a 17-year-old youth face a total of 48 charges. The suspects were charged on Oct. 12 following a lengthy investigation in which ALERT says revealed the victims involved were underage.

ALERT began investigating last April, partnering with Edmonton police on a missing persons case involving a 13-year-old girl. That investigation led police to a hotel in south Edmonton where they discovered the girl along with two other underage girls. Police believe the teens were recruited and groomed to work in the sex trade and were being sexually exploited at a local hotel.

“They were all known to the girls they were trafficking. They befriended them through social circles, as well as social media, a lot of this occurred or was facilitated by SnapChat,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Hayes, ALERT Human Trafficking. “Social media helped facilitate this, it was a way for the accused to get in touch with the girls.”

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Police said there were three underage victims and one who had just turned 18 but officers believed she was being exploited before she turned 18.

“These youths were lured and groomed into working in the sex industry,” said Hayes. “As is often the case, there are a bunch of false promises of money, relationships, gifts, but those never seem to materialize and these survivors endure tremendous hardship.”

“They really make these girls feel like they love them.”

Police said all four survivors are receiving the appropriate supports and resources with partner agencies.

Obinna Nwanekezi, 19, faces 22 charges including luring a child and sexual assault. Jelani Ried, 19, faces 21 charges. Five additional charges have been laid against a 17-year-old youth, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The suspects have been released with conditions.

“It’s just very important to know what you’re kids are doing [online], be involved, know who they are talking to, ask them questions, be involved in their social life and know who their friends are,” Hayes said.

“I think the more social media platforms become available, the more predators are going to take advantage of that. They know which platforms teenagers and youth subscribe to and they’re very smart in what they do,” said Mary Jane James,CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. “The damage is life-altering.”

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James said cases related to human trafficking have grown exponentially in Edmonton and across the country.

“Keep the lines of communication open with your children. When children get into these situations they don’t have the tools, experience, maturity to get themselves out of it and they’re just deeper in the hole. That’s what these predators are hoping for.”

Anyone who believes they are a victim of sexual assault or abuse is encouraged to report it to police.

Victims of sexual exploitation can report it to the Edmonton Police Service by calling 780-423-4567, or 9-1-1 if they are in immediate danger.

Click to play video: 'How to protect kids from ‘epidemic’ of online sextortion'
How to protect kids from ‘epidemic’ of online sextortion

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